Jessica Lang Dance returns to the Joyce Theater on Feb. 19 with three New York premieres. “Lines Cubed,” “Mendelssohn/Incomplete,” and “White” are the highlights of a repertoire that also includes older pieces. The company, comprised of nine seasoned dancers, performs the mixed bill as a dynamic exposé of the collaborative possibilities between the visual and performing arts.
“It [dance] can be sculpture,” Lang said. “It can be moving visual art. So to connect it to a painting or to be inspired by someone else's art ... to me isn't a huge jump.”
“I just think I have a mind that looks at architecture and objects around me for their potential to move,” she added.
As a 21st century American choreographer, Lang has an affinity for visually pleasing, stimulating aesthetics that combine ballet and modern techniques to foster a sense of modernity and immediacy. Having danced professionally for Twyla Tharp, Lang knows how to manipulate both classical and contemporary positions to form her own style.
“I think she [Lang] uses ballet line and ballet vocabulary but also qualitatively modern music. The look of her work is very clean and architectural and sculpted,” Clifton Brown, Jessica Lang Dance's rehearsal director and dancer, said.
Though Lang began her profession as a choreographer in 1999, she did not found her own dance company until 2011, when she was awarded the Joyce Theater Artist Residency. Since then, her troupe has performed around the world at prestigious venues like Jacob's Pillow. After its stint at the Joyce, Jessica Lang Dance will tour the Americas from Guatemala to Beverly Hills before making its Washington, D.C., debut at the Kennedy Center in May.
“I have a new way of looking at my career and my creations because now I have a sense of what it means to have a home,” Lang said as she described how having her own company has influenced her experience as an artist.
Despite its international presence, the group is based in New York, and according to Brown, the choreography's daring and innovation embody life in the five boroughs. He compared Lang's repertoire to the skyline: Detailed up close, but simple and beautiful at a distance.
“You get from it [the choreography] what you want to as an individual, just like how New York City is,” Brown said. “It's all there for the taking.”
“Lines Cubed” is inspired by the work of Piet Mondrian. The sets and costumes resemble the bright colors and strict lines in his painting, “Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow,” which is on display at the Museum of Modern Art. As the piece progresses, dancers change from all-black into brilliant yellow, red, and blue costumes. In one snapshot, a woman pitches into a side penché, creating a vertical column from toe to toe. Later, dancers who are onstage communicate with their peers behind the scrim, and their interplay gives an illusion of surrealism.
“The ideas are brought to life not only with the shapes that we're making with our bodies but also how we interact with one another,” Brown said.
In contrast, “Mendelssohn/Incomplete” is tranquil and fluid—six dancers, dressed in purple, waltz to the light and breezy strains of the violin. To continue the emphasis on innovation, “White” is a film that features company members as they come in and out of view, seemingly alone in their togetherness while they struggle to engage each other though they stand only strides apart.
In addition to the premieres, the program at the Joyce will include several crowd favorites: “Aria,” “The Calling,” and “I.N.K.” In “The Calling,” a soloist is bathed in spotlight as she uses épaulement to contour angles and silhouettes with her torso. She is engulfed in a pure white skirt that billows and twists as she turns to face her audience.
In all of her repertory, Lang said she takes a humanistic approach to choreography.
“Dance is movement, music, and the ability to connect with a human spirit, and that's really important,” Lang said.
Jessica Lang Dance will perform at the Joyce Theater (175 8th Ave.) Feb. 19 to 23. Tickets from $10.
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